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Lectures Reflecting A Christian World and Life View

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This week, we have the privilege of hearing from Dr. Craig Bartholomew, who will deliver our spring lecture this Thursday. Dr. Bartholomew serves as Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, and is senior research fellow at Tyndale House (Cambridge, UK). Previously, Dr. Bartholomew has also served as H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy at Redeemer University College, and written a number of books including The Drama of Scripture (with Michael Goheen), Beyond the Modern Age: An Archeology of Contemporary Culture (with the Dutch economist, Bob Goudzwaard), and Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction. In his lecture, Dr. Bartholomew will explore the foundational role the Christian Doctrine of Creation plays in our engagement in the sciences.  

Dr. Bartholomew's lecture is representative of the kinds of lectures that Areopagus seeks to bring to the university. In my time at Iowa State University, we have had speakers address the topics of race and the criminal justice system, delight in the academic pursuit, and the Christian notion of vocation. Of all the things we could do, we choose to bring in speakers, and address these topics, for two reasons:

1. Because Areopagus exists to minister to the university

2. As a witness to the all encompassing nature of the rule of Christ and the Kingdom of God

First, we see our annual lecture as a blessing to the university and one of the means by which we minister to it. In bringing top scholars and experienced practitioners to the campus to speak to their work, we strive to challenge students, faculty, and staff, and contribute to their intellectual, practical, and spiritual development. Our lectures serve to challenge those who come to consider their world and life view, and how it intersects with their studies, research, future plans, and end-goals (telos). Furthermore, our lecture functions as a window in the unique place of our reformed campus ministry at the university, and an invitation to further explore the Christian faith with us. 

However, as the second point makes clear, our lectures seek to provide a witness to the fact that Christ has called his people to go out into every corner of the earth--and every sphere of life--witnessing to his already-not yet kingdom through faithful obedience and service. We have been called to unfurl the latent potential embedded in God's great created universe, to proclaim the good news of Christ, His Kingdom, and the restoration of all the cosmos to its intended purpose(s), and we have been renewed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do both of these things. So we invite speakers who reflect this holistic mission and grand vision--professors, lawyers, authors, teachers, ministers, ethicists, and engineers (and in the future, God willing, artists and athletes, politicians and businesspeople, and so many more)--and make it clear that the gospel is good news for everyone in every area of life for all of creation. 

So if you are in the Ames area this Thursday, drop on by. We would love to have you and for you to hear about our great God, the beauty of His creation, the impetus it provides for science, and the hope of the gospel. Check out the Facebook advert HERE, or further explore our website to learn more about Areopagus at Iowa State. 

 

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A New Year, A New Semester, A New Study

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"What is remarkable [about Deuteronomy] is the detailed extent to which God has utilized this legal instrument of human kingdoms for the definition and administration of his own redemptive reign over his people."
-Meredith Kline, The Treaty of the Great King[1]

Standing on the precipice of the land God had promised, the people of Israel stop. They stop to covenant with God--to renew their relationship with the One who chose them out of all the peoples of the world, delivered them out of slavery in Egypt, and brought them to this place flowing with milk and honey--and remember their calling given by God.  

Covenant lies at the heart of, and is the foundation for, all biblical religion. As Gordon Spkyman writes:

Covenantal religion defines the fundamental structures undergirding all human relationships and every societal calling. It is not limited to a few highly "spiritual" moments in life--the birth of a covenant child, the sacramental signs and seals of the covenant, covenant training, or the covenant community at worship. It embraces every earthly institution--marriage, schooling, labor, social service, science, art, even politics. [2]

Thus, Israel was intended to be a "display people," a contrast (covenantal) community guided by the creational will and ways of the Lord God. And Deuteronomy, as a covenantal document, would provide the foundation for the life of this people, balancing an open-ended vision of the kingdom of God (the restoration of God's rule in the world) with practical provisions for dealing with a frail and fallen people. [3]. Through faithfulness to God expressed in obedience to his law, flourishing would come to the people and the land. 

However, there is more to the story than that. Blessedness and flourishing were not intended merely for Israel, but rather, were to be extended to the ends of the earth; to all peoples. Israel was chosen for service, or, to put it another way: Israel was chosen for a calling. Deuteronomy serves as a "call to communal transformation not merely for their own sake as God's people but also for the sake of her often hostile neighbors" by way of justice and grace [4].   

As we begin a new year and a new semester, we also begin a new study, considering the ongoing significance of this book--Deuteronomy--for us today. Because, as those united to Christ, the Chosen One and True Israel of God, we are grafted into the spiritual history and heritage of those who renewed the covenant at Gerizim and Ebal. How does this book display the progressive unfolding of God's redemptive work and how does it speak into our contemporary context? What should our modern, Western churches look like as we seek to faithfully live out the biblical story, and into our calling as those covenanting with the Triune God? How do we live in the world--amidst the joys and sorrows of those around us--for its flourishing, without losing our distinctiveness? How do we remember, celebrate, and trust our God, and what does it look like to reflect justice, grace, and truth to our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, family, and friends? 

These are some of the themes, topics, and questions we will examine this semester in our study, entitled, "Covenant and Calling: A Missional Study of Deuteronomy." Meets at 7PM in the Memorial Union, Room 3517. 

 

[1] Meredith Kline, Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963), 41-42.
[2] Gordon Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 359. 
[3] J.G. McConville, Deuteronomy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002)
[4] Mark R. Glanville, "A Missional Reading of Deuteronomy: Communities of Gratitude, Celebration, and Justice," in Reading the Bible Missionally, ed. Michael W. Goheen (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), 124. 

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Annual Areopagus Semester-End Christmas Party

Last week, we hosted the annual Areopagus semester-end Christmas party. I wanted to post a few of the pictures from that night (just click on the image to scroll through). They can also be viewed at our Facebook page, here.

As 2017 wraps up, we rejoice in the ways God has worked in and through Areopagus to reflect the gospel and a Christian worldview into the university. We celebrate the new students who have found a home in our ministry and at Trinity Christian Reformed Church. And we praise God for the start of our new leadership training program (ALTI) and the students participating in it.   

We also look forward to seeing how God is going to work in the year to come. In particular, we are looking forward to our spring lecture (featuring Dr. Craig Bartholomew), the Dordt Day of Encouragement, and our Bible study series entitled "Covenant and Calling: A Missional Reading of Deuteronomy." Join us in praying for God to use these to further his mission in the lives of his people, on the Iowa State University campus, around the world, and in all facets of life.  

From all of us at Areopagus, we thank you for your partnership and support of the ministry. Merry Christmas!

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The Parables: Hidden In Order To Reveal

In his book Stories with Intent, Klyne Snodgrass explains that in the parables, "nothing is hidden except that it should be made clear; that is, nothing is placed in parables except in order to reveal. The parables hide in order to reveal."  

Whether it be profound truths concerning the nature of God's character or the function of the Kingdom of God, the hardness of the human heart or the powerful, counterintuitive nature of love, the parables seek to clarify and reveal.   

In an age of confusion, doubt, and a desperate hunger for truly good news, the parables are food for thought.  More than this, these teachings of Jesus are a continuation of the work of the Old Testament prophets, calling the people--calling you and me--to hear and to see.  To recognize our need to turn (again and again) to the Lord God; to reorient our hearts to the Kingdom and its King; and to know what it means to live rightly as God's redemptive, renewing work in the world continues to unfold.   

Though it sometimes takes effort to find the meaning and understand the parables--the answers don't come as easily as a google search--the rewards are great.  Though the answers and truths unveiled in Jesus' teachings are not always easy to swallow, they are for our eternal good, our joy, the flourishing of humanity, and the glory of God.  

This spring, we are taking time to study these parables. I hope that you might consider joining us this (and every) Tuesday at 7PM in the Memorial Union (Room 3517) as we discuss what Jesus' teachings tells us about life, love, and the Kingdom of God.  And I pray that having ears, you may hear, and having eyes, you might see, the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Christ and His word to us.  

If you have any questions, please contact Tyler Helfers at director@isu-areopagus.org or call him at 515.518.6072. 

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This Fall: A Formative Community in Christ

Once again, the campus is buzzing with activity as students stream back into town--to apartments, dorms, sorority and frat houses.  Whereas fall denotes an ending of life in nature in anticipation of the coming winter, in the university, it signals the vibrancy of new life.  Soon, the pathways criss-crossing our campus will be teeming with students--some filled with ambition and excitement, others with anxiety and apathy--on their way to class, study sessions, coffee dates, or a moment of rest in the lush grass of central campus.  

With all of this comes a new season of ministry.  A new season to proclaim the glorious riches of God's grace in the gospel. A new season to capture students' imaginations with visions of the Kingdom of God and their callings (from education to engineering, animal science to business and everything in between) to witness to this Kingdom by imaging Christ to the world.  A new season to challenge students and faculty alike to consider the big questions of life, to participate in the redemptive drama at work around them, and to engage in practices that will shape their desires and produce habits that both glorify God and reflect Him through their lives.  

This is ingrained with me as a reformed Christian, and within our ministry, which seeks to expose students to the distinctives of our theological tradition.  It's even in the word reformed; being formed anew by the Spirit of God through (re)newed practices of old.  I want students to find freedom and rest in the rhythm and flow of our services of prayer; filled with a wonder and awe of God in our biblical and theological studies.  I want students to be challenged to see how they are being shaped by the wider culture in ways that steal their desire and love away from God and His Kingdom towards counterfeit gods and kingdoms.  I want faculty members to be encouraged in the work they do for God, and impassioned with new ideas for influencing students and helping them pursue their callings.  And I want students and faculty alike to be equipped in their hearts, minds, and bodies with knowledge, love, and habits that will follow them long after they've left the university campus so that they can be lifelong, faithful followers of Christ doing the work He's called them to do wherever He's called them to do it.

All too often, we (campus ministries and campus ministers) fail to ask the big questions. We fail to come alongside students wrestling with such things as:

What is my purpose; where do I find meaning in life?
Why is the world the way it is?
Is there a God?
How can I change? How can I bring about change in the world?
What does my faith have to do with "real" life? 
How do I live a consistent life of faith?

In failing to address these questions, as well as others, we rob students, and dance along the surface of the issues pulling at their hearts.  And not only this, but we also fail to show them the beauty and robustness of the Christian faith and its practices that could be oh so helpful.

To this end, one of the things we are doing this fall is studying James K.A. Smith's book, You Are What You Love, a book that challenges us to "recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practice."  My prayer is that it might lead us towards being a more formative ministry at Iowa State University, instilling a new vision within our students and bringing about a greater influence on the wider campus.  It will not be easy, and it will not always be "fun," but the results of such discipleship can be deep, transformative, and long-lasting as we are further conformed to the image of Christ and reoriented in heart, mind, and body towards pursuing the glorious Kingdom of God.  

So, will you join our formative community in Christ?  

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Re-Enchanting the Academy: The All But Forgotten (Christian) Virtue of Delight

 Design work by Sarah Van Berkum

Design work by Sarah Van Berkum

What if a central part of our calling in the academy is to become loci of gladness, prisms of joy, wonder and gratitude.  And if at least part of our calling in the academy is to be a prism of delight, what difference might this make to us, and to those around us in the academy?  In this lecture, Dr. Kevin Corcoran will explore a vision of delight and gratitude as virtues, as well as what difference this vision might make to us and those around us in the academy.  Dr. Corcoran suggests that these virtues enable us take our place among those rare souls who, in the very act of ordinary living, re-enchant the world, including the academy. 

Join us for this event on Thursday, February 18, beginning at 6pm in Morrill Hall.  The lecture will be followed by a time of Q&A, as well as refreshments.  

 

Dr. Kevin Corcoran (PhD, Purdue University) is professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, and the author of several books, including Christ and Postmodern Culture and Rethinking Human Nature: A Christian Materialist Alternative to the Soul. In addition to his writing, Dr. Corcoran's academic interests lie in metaphysics, philosophy and religion, and philosophy for the public.

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A Lenten Litany for Campus Bible Studies

 Like the Watchman Waits for Morning (Psalm 130), Aaron Collier, 2007

Like the Watchman Waits for Morning (Psalm 130), Aaron Collier, 2007

In this season of Lent, we take time to remember. 
We remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ:

He took our pain.
He bore our suffering.
We considered him punished by God,
     stricken by him and afflicted.
He was oppressed.
He was afflicted.
Yet He did not open his mouth,
      but was led like a lamb to the slaughter. (Isaiah 53:4,7)

But we also remember that we have been united to Christ, and, therefore, share in his suffering and death:
We have been crucified with Christ.
We no longer live,
     but Christ lives in us. 

The lives we now live in the body,
     we live by faith in the Son of God;

     the one who loved us and gave himself for us. (Gal. 2:20)

Yet, we do more than just remember during this time.  We receive a call to discipleship; a call for our hearts to be made new, our desires reoriented towards the Kingdom of God, our minds renewed, and our lives conformed to the image of Christ.  For,
All of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death.
Not only this, but we’ve also been buried with Christ,
So that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
     through the glory of God,
we too may live a new life.  (Rom. 6:3-4)

Part of this call to discipleship consists of communing with our God in prayer.  Recognizing our weakness and insufficiency, we come in humility with our cares and concerns to the Almighty and All sufficient One. We take time, now, to lift up our prayers to God through Christ our Mediator.

  

(Time of Silent Prayer and Meditation)

  

This call to discipleship also includes filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God.  His Word refreshes the soul and gives joy to the heart. By it we come to better know our God, His ways, and His calling for us in the ongoing drama of redemption. May we yearn for these things in this time together, and may our good God accomplish them through Christ by power of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen.  

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